Phoenix season ended by Cyclone
One day after winning the Niagara Catholic Athletic Association (Zone 2) AA championship, the St. Francis Phoenix senior girls basketball team saw its season come to an end Thursday with a 66-22 loss to the E.L. Crossley Cyclone in the Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association semifinals.
Saint Francis point guard Rachel Bufalino saw her Phoenix hoops career reach its conclusion with the loss.
“It is so sad,” the Grade 12 student said. “In the last few seconds, I busted out crying.”
The tears were brought on by the 17-year-old thinking about her entire career at St. Francis.
“Over these four years, we have been improving so much as a team and getting to know each other,” she said. “It’s tough that this is my last game forever.”
Bufalino was thrilled that her career ended with a Zone 2 AA title, following a 41-36 victory over the Holy Cross Raiders Wednesday. Top scorers for St. Francis in the zone final were Anna D’Arrigo, Lilly Brown, Meghan McLaughlin, Abbey Gooder and Grace Gill. Leading the way on the scoresheet for Holy Cross were Caleigh Cunningham, Logan Brown, Maddie Caughill, Indy DeGroot and Mikayla Belchoir.
“It was so great,” Bufalino said. “We ended it right and I was so proud of us and everything we have done.”
She is heading to university next fall and will miss Phoenix basketball.
“It’s the girls, the coaches and the whole atmosphere,” Bufalino said. “Basketball is a pretty big thing at St. Francis and I am so proud to be a part of it.”
St. Francis head coach Karly Ruetz will miss Bufalino.
“I don’t have enough good things to say about her,” she said. “She is a fantastic teammate, a great girl to coach, she has an excellent work ethic and she is just a great person overall.”
Ruetz would have loved if the pass-first point guard had been a little more selfish in looking for her own she.
“You need people on the team who aren’t selfish, but I wish she would look a little more for herself because she has such a great skill set.”
Ruetz was pleased with her team’s season.
“It has been amazing,” she said. “It has been a real rollercoaster, that’s for sure, with a new coaching staff that had never coached before.
“The girls were fantastic, we had a lot of fresh faces this year, we were a young team and they were great to coach.”
Also on the St. Francis coaching staff were Sullivan Murphy, Ally Columbus and Wade Pytchell.
Ruetz is excited for the future of St. Francis basketball.
“We have a good chunk of Grade 11s back next year and there is a strong group coming up from juniors.”
The Phoenix played hard to the final whistle Thursday against a talented E.L. Crossley squad.
“They are a fantastic team,” Ruetz said. “I would be shocked if they didn’t go to OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championship). They are probably the best offensive team I have seen in the area in a long time.”
Cyclone 66 Phoenix 22
Mick and Angelo’s/Johnny Rocco’s, Cracker Jacks Player of the Game: Crossley’s Kaitlyn Brophy with 12 points.
For the E.L. Crossley Cyclone: Brophy 12; Martha Lirio 11; Sydney Piekny 10.
For the St. Francis Phoenix: Anna D’Arrigo 6; Grace Gill 4; Lilly Brown 4.